The government on Wednesday appointed Tariq Bajwa – an old confidante of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and a former central banker and fiscal expert -- as an aide to the Prime Minister on Finance in a move towards reshuffling the economic team.
In terms of Rule 4(6) of the Rules of Business 1973, the prime minister has been pleased to appoint Tariq Bajwa as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister with the status of the Minister of State, with immediate effect, according to a note signed by the PM’s Secretary.
Bajwa is among those five lucky ministers of state out of 29 who have also been assigned a portfolio. The prime minister’s cabinet has seen a constant increase, many of them without portfolios. With the fresh addition, the total number of federal ministers, ministers of state, advisers and special assistants has touched 75. Some more appointments are also expected in the economic team.
The fresh appointment was made a week after Dar took the oath as finance minister following the unceremonious exit of Miftah Ismail who had been credited with saving the country from default.
Out of 35 federal ministers, two are without portfolio which is rare, including Ismail.
During a meeting in London, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif informed Ismail about the decision to remove him from the post of the finance minister in the presence of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, key party leaders and some cabinet members, according to the people privy to the proceedings of the meeting.
Neither Shehbaz nor Nawaz gave a one-to-one audience to Ismail to inform him about the decision to remove him from the most prestigious cabinet slot. The sources said that Ismail aired his misgivings about getting to know of his removal through the media.
A cabinet member revealed to The Express Tribune that Nawaz Sharif had expressed his apprehension about constant increase in petroleum products prices as against the elder Sharif’s understanding the prices would be increased only once. However, the sources said, Ismail had clarified that he never said that.
Ismail’s six-month ministerial term is going to end on October 17 and the cabinet division is still showing his status as a minister without any portfolio.
Ismail had termed Dar’s decision to keep the petroleum levy rates lower than the limit agreed with the International Monetary Fund as “reckless”, which was also not liked by the party leadership.
Bajwa’s appointment has been made on Dar’s recommendation. Bajwa had served with Dar in the capacity as chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue and Economic Affairs and Finance secretaries.
Dar had also made him the State Bank of Pakistan governor after the acting central bank governor unilaterally decided to devalue the currency in late 2017.
In May 2019 Bajwa stepped down from his post after the then prime minister Imran Khan sought his resignation. Bajwa was holding a statutory position for a period of three years that would have ended on July 6, 2020.
Bajwa had also remained close to Dar during his days in exile in London, unlike others who severed ties with him.
Bajwa will look after operational matters of the finance ministry and will effectively be an adviser to Dar. The role of Minister of State for Finance Dr Aisha Pasha, who has been appointed by Shehbaz Sharif, may be further marginalised after the inclusion of Bajwa.
Dar is also expected to make some more changes at the advisory positions and bureaucratic levels with a view to appoint trustworthy and like-minded people. Some changes in the Federal Board of Revenue are also expected soon.
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